With shocking statistics being released concerning teenage pregnancy in the country, the Department of Basic Education is now on a mission to work towards better sexuality education and sexual health amongst youth.
The Department has said that condoms will be provided in schools through vending machines. They will also be expanding the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum in Life Orientation which aims to teach learners about the importance of consent, about how their bodies are theirs, and about how to recognise sexually inappropriate behaviour.
This hasn't gone down smoothly with communities and parents feeling uncomfortable about these interventions with Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality, Tamara Mathebula, saying that this is done so that young people can prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Other services being made available are also HIV testing, emergency contraception when a child is raped, and screening, investigation and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
It was reported that in Gauteng alone, around 23 000 girls between 10 and 19 years old are pregnant. Other statistics which were brought to light was that there's 934 unattended cases of statutory rape and 1 300 girls are testing positive for HIV infections weekly.
Young girls are also the group where the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections are recorded as well as for TB.
The Chairperson said that figures have doubled in the past three years:
This is a society and health problem when you look at teenage pregnancy and statutory rape that are happening around us.
Mathebula has said that this leads to poverty, lack of education and poor access to reproductive health services.
Contributing factors which the Chairperson brings up is that it's quite common to find relationships between young girls and older men, even with teachers.
"We have young girls who have no idea about what's happening with their bodies. We have young girls that have no access to services that they are supposed to have access to and we have young girls that are actually vulnerable to all kinds of gender-based violence," said Mathebula.
Speaking about sex and doing so openly is often seen as taboo and uncomfortable when it comes to parents as well as religious and cultural standings. Mathebula elaborates:
According to our culture and according to our norms, it has always been taboo to talk to young people about sex but if you go back to other cultures, you will find that culturally there would be conversations that would be done by the older women about their own bodies, how they should date and how they should behave themselves if they feel they want to have sex.
This she says shows that it's not completely something that hasn't been done culturally and that it previously worked. Parents are therefore encouraged to speak to their children at an early age.